How to identify your Sabb Engine and Gearbox

When ordering your spares, it’s always important to correctly identify your engine and gearbox. The article below will guide you through the process of identifying your Sabb engine and the gearbox that is commonly used.

If possible, always quote engine Model, Year, and Number when ordering spares. These details are stamped on a plaque on the aft face of the raised hand start pillar, or on later engines on the rocker cover. Early plates had the year and number together, so for example No. 69312 is the 312th engine of that type made in 1969. Since 1982 the date is coded, and appears as two letters, like NU or AB. (The codeword is CUMBERLAND. NU = 1992, AB = 1984!) Quoting horsepower is confusing, as engines have been updated over the years. 18HP could mean a Model 2H or an old Model 2G. If the plate is missing or unreadable, the following should help.

Type Bore x Stroke HP @ RPM Description
H 90 x 90 6 @ 1800

8 @ 2000

Single cylinder. Rocker covers 1″ lower than the top of the hand-start pillar. Oil filter mounted on one cylinder head stud. Most pre-1977 have two ‘V’ belt grooves around the flywheel for optional dynastart.
G 90 x 120 10 @ 1800 Single cylinder. Rocker covers 2″ higher than a hand-start pillar. Splash lubricated, so no oil filter. Starter gear ring on the flywheel, except on very early engines.
GA 95 x 120

100 x 120

12 @ 1800

14 @ 2000

Air-cooled single cylinder, principally made for ship’s lifeboats. Encased flywheel/fan. Alloy cylinder head.
2H 90 x 90 18 @ 2200 Lightweight (for Sabb) twin. Ribbed oblong rocker covers concealing injectors. Two single-element injection pumps on the starboard side.
2G 90 x 100 22 @ 1800 Heavy twin cylinder. One square-ish rocker covers concealing injectors. Two single-element injection pumps on the starboard side.
2J 100 x 120 30 @ 1900 Similar to 2G. Separate rocker covers for each

These engines are fitted with a variety of gearboxes, or variable pitch propeller actuators, detailed below. The engine Model specifies both engine type, and gearbox. All have 2 to 1 reductions unless stated otherwise.

Model Gearbox Details
H, G, GA, 2H Actuator for variable pitch propeller, with a separate clutch. When engaged, the propeller turns left-handed always, and ahead/neutral/astern is selected by varying the blade pitch. 90-degree tramlever control.
HSP, GSP, 2HSP Fully feathering version. Blades can rotate beyond the astern setting to lie almost fore-and-aft for minimum drag when sailing. Some types incorporate clutch and pitch control on single tramlever, and propeller locks with blades

Engines made entirely by Sabb Motors A.S

Following a series of semi-diesels, this was the first true diesel, produced from 1955 to 2002 with a run of some 24,500 engines. Splash lubricated with huge roller big-end bearing running on crankpin and taper roller mains. Two lead-filled balance weights in the cover behind the flywheel reduce primary out-of-balance forces. Pinion on crankshaft runs in female gear with twice the number of teeth, so the entire rear bit runs at half engine speed. In effect, it drives off the camshaft. The massive flywheel at the front just fits on taper, with one large retaining nut. No lubrication to the top end apart from that provided by the oil can.

Developed from the G, introduced to provide a lower engine more suitable for yachts. Shorter stroke, and with small vane-type oil pump driven off single balance weight in the crankcase. Shell mains and big end were solid thick shell type early, then changed to a thin wall. A lighter flywheel is bolted onto the front of the crankshaft with four bolts. Usually fitted with a Bosch dynastart & twin V belts running in grooves machined on the outside of the flywheel. When dynastart became unobtainable, a big re-design to allow starter motor and alternator set-up, but 3 years later (1980) production stopped.

The air-cooled version of the G was introduced primarily for use in ships’ lifeboats (this started Sabb’s knowledge of this market-leading them to virtually write off the leisure boat market after the arrival of Yanmar, and concentrate on lifeboats). Crank as G, but the finned barrel, alloy direct injection head (others indirect), flywheel incorporating fan, and optional mega bilge pump! Originally rated at 12HP, more power was needed to pass some regulation, so in 1978 bore increased and different pumps and injectors raised this to 14HP. Cancelled contracts in the 70s led to several being sold off cheap to private owners.

In terms of capacity, 2 cylinders the size of the H. Rated at 18HP, of one up, one down design, unlike the Bukh similar-looking engine. The oddity in the range is Sabb’s attempt at a lightweight engine. Unfortunately, the designer died during the development, leading to many modifications and alterations during the production run. Fitted as a standard unit in many yachts, and due to identical mounting dimensions, replaced single cylinder engines in several boats.

Twin version of the G in size. Huge heavy and slow, a bit like an old Lister. Tunnel boring crankcase houses 3 bearing crank, flywheel on front taper as the G. Main and big ends all thick solid bearings, lubricated by gear oil pump. Indirect injection, one pump per cylinder. A vast range of gearboxes and variable pitch boxes fitted, with 2 to 1, 1½ to 1 and direct drive options.

A 3-cylinder version, to be called the 3G was never completed, and instead, to get more power for the lifeboat scene, the 2G was over bored, fitted with direct injection, and became the 2J. They look identical, except the 2G has one rocker cover over both pots, and the 2J has one on each. These engines were fitted to many lifeboats until the marinized engines took over. Production stopped in 1983.


M4.130, M4.140, M4.210
M = Mitsubishi based 4 = 4 cylinder 130 = 1.3 litre
The 130 was quickly superseded by the 140, over bored by 2mm. There are very few of these engines in the UK.

M4.295GR, M4.295GR-LB
GR = Hurth Gearbox LB = Lifeboat specification
The base engines used in the Mitsubishi range are M4.210 – 4DQ50, M4.130 – K4D, M4.140 – K4E, and M4.295 – S4E2. Production ran from 1982 to 1997, when Mitsubishi suddenly ceased making the S4E2, (without informing S.M. of their intentions!) Spares orders for the M4.295GR-LB engines are now quite frequent, mostly for electrical components such as relays, stop solenoids, starters, alternators, and water jacket heaters, and occasionally hoses, water pumps etc

Ford-Sabb Engines

Based on Ford industrial engines, these were not sold over here as many UK versions were available. Requests for parts do occur sometimes from commercial customers. Base engines were from the 2700 and 2720 range. F4.144 54HP, F4.254 68HP, F4.415 85HP, F6.216 80HP, F6.363T 130HP, F6.363TI 150HP, F6.595T 155HP, F6.595TI, and F6622 127HP. T = turbo I = intercooler

Iveco-Sabb Engines

When Ford Industrial products packed up, these engines took their place. Iveco engines are a more recent addition to the Sabb range and spares are readily available. Type 8041M08-LB. and 8061M12-LB.

Lister-Sabb Engines

L2.093LB – 18HP. L3.139LB – 27HP. L4.186LB – 36HP.
Made for the lifeboat market, based on the Lister Alpha LPW2/3/4. Increasing demand for running spares, filters, drive belts etc., plus on-board spares kits as required by some regulations. New Lister range 4 X90 and 3 X90.

Model Gearbox Details
HG, GG, GAG, 2HG Ahead/Neutral/Astern cone-type gearbox. Large gear lever port side. Domed lid with SABB embossed. Two versions were made from 1965 to 1971:- Two identical-looking brass plugs on top, just aft of the lid. One is the oil filter, other indent spring retainer. 1971 onwards: – Reinforced version, distinguishable by indent spring in separate 3″ high housing. Many internal differences.
HEG, GEG Hurth gears inside Sabb cast iron box. The small lever operates gears by morse cables.
2HEG The shaft goes opposite direction to the engine ahead, hence the right-hand propeller. Introduced in 1977.
2G, 2J Heavy duty variable pitch actuator. Two high tramlevers, one operating clutch, the other pitch, with 3 ½ turns from ahead to astern.
2GZ, 2JZ As above, but 90-degree pitch lever movement.
2GY, 2JY 1½ to 1 reduction. Light V.P. Box, like a smaller engine.
2GG, 2JG Direct drive. A cone gearbox is like a smaller engine.
2GYG, 2JYG As above, but 1½ to 1 reduction.
2GRG, 2JRG As above but 2 to 1 reduction.
2GGR, 2JGR Heavy duty epicyclic gearbox. 2 to 1 final reduction box on aft end.
2GHR, 2JHR Hurth gearbox. Various types fitted. (Superseded H.D. box above)

Changes that affect popular spares

Year Modification Type affected
1969 Fuel filter moved from port to starboard. Shorter fuel hose H, G
1971 Reinforce cone gear box introduce Gearbox Models
Change in cylinder block, & oil pipes to rocker gear. 2H
One piece head gasket instead of two cooper rings 2H
Prop. Shafts changed from bronze imperial (1″ & 1 ¼”) to stainless metric (25mm & 32mm). Stern bearings & VP drive blocks affected All
1972 Big end bearings changed from ¼” thick shells to thinwall type. H, 2H
1973 Stronger valve springs. Different collet retainer H, G, 2G, 2J
New water-jacket silencer instead of oval mixer box H, G 2H
1975 General change from U.N.C. Threads to metric All
1976 Crankcases & gearboxes with bolt-on mounting feet. H, G, 2H
1977 Starter and alternator instead of obsolete dynastart. H
1978 New piston with three rings, instead of four ring type H, 2H
Bore increased from 95mm to 100mm GA
Different block, and block to crankcase gasket 2H
Fuel filters changed to screw-on type. G, 2J
1980 Production stopped on Type H engines
1983 Production stopped on Types GA, 2H and 2G engines

SABB MOTOR now concentrate on Ship’s Lifeboat engines, based on Ford, Mitsubishi and Lister. The Series G is still
made, (1988), as are spare parts for all others in the range